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Scientists Discover Protein Involved in Fat Production
Date:6/12/2008

Mouse experiments might lead to new target for treating high cholesterol, researchers say

THURSDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- In experiments with mice, researchers have found a protein in the liver involved in regulating the production of fat molecules.

The finding could provide a new target for treating high cholesterol or fatty liver disease.

"We identified a novel transcription factor that regulates lipid synthesis in the liver," said lead researcher Ann-Hwee Lee, from the Harvard School of Public Health. "This transcription factor is activated in response carbohydrate intake."

This protein, called XBP1, is another key transcription factor regulating lipid production in the liver in response to high carbohydrate intake, Lee said. "So, mice that do not have XBP1 have dramatically reduced plasma lipids, such as cholesterol and fatty acids," he explained.

Lee's team found this protein switches genes involved in fat metabolism on and off.

The report is published in the June 12 online edition of Science.

In the current study, Lee's group used mice that had no XBP1 expression in the liver. These mice showed lower levels of cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood because of reduced production of fats.

This discovery could lead to new ways for treating high cholesterol, Lee said.

"We hope by controlling this pathway, we may be able to control the human diseases caused by increased levels of lipids," Lee said.

Any drug that would target XBP1 would work differently than statins, Lee noted. "The advantage of a drug that targets XBP1 is that it controls both cholesterol and fatty acids," he said.

However, there is also a big disadvantage to such a drug, Lee said.

"Unfortunately, XBP1 is expressed everywhere in the body, and it has a dual function," Lee said. "It controls lipids, but it also has a role in protein secretion. So, any dr
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